The New Orleans Hornets were the hottest team in the NBA until Wednesday. Facing the team that has taken over that distinction could make it tough for the Hornets to break out of their sudden slump.
The Utah Jazz look to extend their season-high win streak to nine games Monday when they host the Hornets, who hope to avoid matching a season high with a third straight defeat.
New Orleans (32-14) won nine straight games from Jan. 11-28, giving them 12 victories in January to match a franchise record for a month. The Hornets, though, had their win streak snapped with a 116-103 loss to Golden State on Wednesday, and fell again 112-103 at Sacramento on Friday.
The Hornets hadn’t lost back-to-back games since Dec. 12 and 14, and have dropped three straight only once this season - Nov. 19-23, a skid that included a 99-71 loss at Utah.
After winning their first 20 games when scoring at least 100 points, the Hornets have dropped their last two contests despite scoring 103 each time. They held every opponent to less than 100 points during their nine-game run, allowing an average of 86.9 points in that stretch - a stark difference from the 114.0 given up over their last two contests.
“We are just not focused,” coach Byron Scott said Friday after his team trailed by as many as 26. “I don’t know if we took this game very seriously. We have to play like the best every night. We were not ready to play.”
Scott’s club will look to rebound against the Jazz (30-18), who have won eight in a row and 12 of 13 to take over the Northwest Division lead. It has been a remarkable resurgence for a Utah team that lost 11 of 14 from Dec. 4-29 to fall to 16-16.
The Jazz had six players score in double figures in their 110-91 victory at Memphis on Saturday.
“We took care of business,” reserve forward Paul Millsap said. “Come in and do what we are supposed to do and win the game to continue our streak. That was the whole plan and to go back home and play New Orleans. They are a tough team and it will be a good game.”
The Jazz return to EnergySolutions Arena, where they’ve won 10 in a row. They haven’t won more than 10 straight home games in a season since taking their last 12 during the 1997-98 season.
The Hornets shot a season-low 32.9 percent from the field in their first visit to Salt Lake City on Nov. 23 - the teams’ only previous meeting this season.
Carlos Boozer was one of six Utah players to score in double figures in that game. He had 19 points and 16 rebounds, and is averaging 18.7 points and 13.7 boards in his last three games against the Hornets.
New Orleans has lost seven of its last nine meetings with Utah, including three of four at EnergySolutions Arena.
Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul is shooting a career-best 48.0 percent from the field this season, but is 18-for-50 (36.0 percent) in his last five games against the Jazz.
Utah point guard Deron Williams, selected one spot ahead of Paul in the 2005 draft, is averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 53.8 percent in his last six games against New Orleans.